EU minority rights need protection – MEPs

EU minority rights
© iStock/VEX Collective

The European Parliament has called for a set of common rules to enshrine EU minority rights and fair treatment for minorities across the union.

MEPs passed a non-legislative resolution yesterday calling on the European Committee to devise a directive on minimum standards for EU minority rights, including measures to prevent Member States from discriminating legally against minority groups.

The resolution encouraged the adoption of an EU-wide definition of “minorities”, recommending the definition laid out by the European Convention on Human Rights. Eight per cent of EU citizens throughout the union are members of national minorities. The resolution emphasised the need to ensure “equal cultural, linguistic and educational rights” to these citizens and called for EU minority rights policy to be informed by an assessment of Member States’ already existing policies for protecting minority groups.

The resolution specifically singles out the treatment of stateless Roma people in the EU, who are frequently subject to marginalisation and persecution, much of it either state-sanctioned or at least not actively officially frowned on. MEPs recommended ending Roma statelessness and enshrining the fundamental human rights of Roma people in EU minority rights law.

Rapporteur Jozsef Nagy said: “Our most important aim is to reduce hate speech and the problems which result from it. All European citizens should be able to use their mother tongue without any fear in the street and in public spaces. We would like to build bridges between majority and minority cultures, so that they can accept and support each other. The EU needs to respect its linguistic and cultural diversity.”

The importance of protecting and encouraging the use of regional and minority languages was emphasised in the text, with MEPs recommending the European Commission and EU Member States implement EU minority rights policies that will ensure the presence of regional and minority languages in education and national media.

The EU minority rights resolution comes in part as a response to the growing trend in xenophobia and far right-approved politics throughout the EU and the rest of the world. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron have both issued warnings this week about the slow global rise of nationalism, with Macron denouncing nationalism as “selfish” and “unpatriotic”; while Merkel told the European Parliament yesterday that the EU’s strength lay in its capacity for tolerance.


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